A very long wait is finally over.
DeAndre Daniels couldmake his debut with Raptors 905 on Saturday against the Iowa Energy, the first time Daniels will see game action since March 1 of last year.
The 23-year-old Daniels was a second-round pick of the Toronto Raptors in 2014, and readers here have been unrelenting in their quest for updates on when the No. 37 overall pick may be ready to make an impact in the organization. The Raptors brought him to Las Vegas Summer League in the weeks following the draft, and he averaged 10 points and 6.2 rebounds in five appearances.
From there, the Raptors and Daniels agreed that spending a season abroad, where he could have the ball in his hands and gain versatility across multiple positions, was best for his development. Daniels went to Australia, suiting up in 30 games for Perth of the NBL. He averaged 14.8 points and ranked second in the league with 7.7 rebounds per-game, though he shot just 39.6 percent overall and 34.1 percent on threes (he had knocked down 41.7 percent of his long-range looks as a junior at Connecticut).
Unfortunately, Daniels’ season was limited some due to eye and elbow injuries. That unfortunate luck continued ahead of this year’s summer league, with Daniels suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot. That injury cost Daniels the bulk of his offseason and all of his 2015-16 so far, and the Raptors feel that finishing out the D-League season is the best next step in Daniels’ recovery.
He’s now been cleared to play and is available Saturday.
Raptors Republic caught up with Daniels in early January to discuss his time in Australia and the mutual decision for him to eventually join the D-League.
The 905 officially acquired him in early January, and he hoped at the time that he was only a few weeks away. Foot injuries are notoriously difficult, though, and he’s essentially been week-to-week since joining the team. That’s allowed him to slowly ramp up his activity level while also getting acclimated with the team and system, and returning in time to get minutes over the final three weeks of the D-League season is probably a major relief for Daniels and the franchise.
It will be tough to judge his performance after more than a year off from action, and so just getting on the court may be his biggest accomplishment of the year. Still, if that puts him in a position to hit the ground running this offseason, once again joining the team for summer league, then he’ll be back on the path the team had in mind for him, just a year later. The guess here is that the Raptors will tab him for a full season in the D-League next year, if he’s willing, allowing him to build his game and fill out his frame for a potential 3-and-D combo-forward role long-term, if he pans out.
But all of that is putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. Daniels is finally healthy and appearing in game action under the Raptors’ purview. That’s awesome news.